2016’s Clown Car Contenders
No, pervy ex-CEO Dov Charney isn’t running for president. But neither are Jim Webb or Carly Fiorina—or any of the other faded stars floating a potential candidacy to remain relevant.
He has been invited to speak at a breakfast for political activists in New Hampshire. He has fundraised for local elected officials in Iowa. And he recently tweeted out a picture of himself sunbathing on a South Carolina beach.
But is Dov Charney serious about running for president?
If he is, the ousted American Apparel CEO could really shake up the Democratic race for the nomination, according to the previously unknown political consultant I am quoting here because he confirms my premise.
“Voters are looking for something outside the box, and Charney gives them that,” the consultant said. “He has name ID and money, and if he runs, he is more likely to spend some of that money on me or someone I know.”
The operative added that he didn’t think the laundry list of reasons why Charney was almost certainly not running and just using the occasion of a quadrennial national civic exercise to boost his own brand—among them that he is allegedly a serial sexual harasser who has been removed from the company he founded and was born in Canada—were really reasons why he shouldn’t at least consider a bid.
“It’s that whole out-of-the-box thing,” the consultant said when asked to spout more stuff that could be used in a news article, regardless of how inane it sounded. “Plus, I think you have a lot of Democrats who aren’t comfortable with Hillary Clinton, and who do you think of when you think of the anti-Hillary? It’s Charney.”
A representative for Charney didn’t deny that people had approached the former American Apparel executive about a potential campaign but could not confirm whether or not these people were paid staff.
“Obviously, Mr. Charney is flattered by all the attention he has been receiving, but right now he is focused on rehabilitating his reputation,” the representative said.
But if Charney’s entrance would shake up the race on the Democratic side, an earthquake would hit the Republican field if former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling decided to throw his hat in the ring.
Sterling has been out of the public eye since the leak of audio of racist comments he made, but according to a person close to the disgraced businessman, he has been boning up on his foreign policy bonafides and calling around to members of the GOP establishment to see if there is an appetite for a run.
“He is a very quick learner. Just yesterday he delivered an unprompted 45-minute disquisition on the role the international community can play in resolving the conflict in the Senkaku Islands,” said the source, who asked to remain anonymous because he was aware of how ridiculous he sounded.
A Republican poobah who was made available to speak for this article because he wants to get in the good graces of someone with a net worth of close of $2 billion, said he did not think the 80-year-old Sterling’s advanced age would be a problem.
“Republicans always value age and experience, and I am not saying he will jump in, but if he does, he will get a real look,” said the establishment figure. “I want to make sure that Mr. Sterling sees this quote. Can you please include it?”
Yes, this is the appointed time in the campaign cycle when would-be contenders who have no intention of participating in the democratic process in any meaningful way float their names for office. The timing makes sense, as Congress is out of session, leaving political reporters looking for something to write about it. And with the primaries still several months away at least, otherwise forgotten semi-political figures are able to say they are considering a run without having to do any of the real work of putting together a campaign.
Just this week, Jim Webb, a former Democratic senator from Virginia who seemed to serve his one term in the Senate with gritted teeth, told reporters that he was taking “a hard look” at a run, despite having a centrist profile vastly out of step with the Democratic primary electorate. Also this week, Carly Fiorina, who was last seen losing a Senate race in California by double digits and whose primary credentials appear to be her stint as the CEO of Hewlett-Packard—a job she was forced out of—told a reporter: “I am flattered by the question and I have to consider it.” Then there is former Minnesota governor and professional wrestler Jesse Ventura, who has said he is taking a look at running, despite apparently living somewhere “off the grid” in Mexico, “so that drones can’t find me.”
These three are joining a long tradition in American democracy of faded celebrities using the built-in media apparatus of presidential politics to remain relevant. There is Donald Trump, who makes a habit of the faux run, despite overwhelming evidence that he has no intention of ever giving up reality TV. Before Trump, there was Warren Beatty, who was apparently approached about running for president in 1999 “by people” and didn’t exactly say no, since to do so would be, you know, disrespectful. And as far back as the early days of the Republic, Molly Pitcher, fresh off the heroism of the Battle of Monmouth and with pointed criticisms of George Washington, let it be known that she was interested in becoming “the mother of the country.” The move took many political analysts at the time by surprise, as women could not legally hold elective office and Pitcher was by all accounts a figure from folklore and not a real person at all.
Had she run, though, she surely would have shaken up the race.